The above photo (sculpture - is it a sculpture? light display?? - by Peter Liversidge) was taken at Yorkshire Sculpture Park when I visited with my friend Lee in August. Given that I live quite close to the place, it's really unacceptable that I don't go there more often. It turns out there's so much to do that 2 hours of parking just isn't enough - you need a whole day. If you can get there, I recommend you go while the weather is still nice enough to spend a day outdoors.
I've read some books, of course. I haven't been posting reviews here because I haven't been writing particulaly in-depth reviews (you can see them on Goodreads, as ever). All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld, however, was excellent and incredibly memorable, and Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl was the first non-rubbish YA novel I've read in forever. I also liked Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (under £5 for Kindle at the moment, bargain for a new release) - just as bleak and gripping as I'd hoped, but somehow also lighter, and very readable. I've just started Jonathan Coe's latest book Expo 58, and although I've read mixed reviews, I'm enjoying it so far.
Speaking of Goodreads: if you're a user of the site, you've probably read about the recent controversy surrounding the decision to change their review policy. The new guidelines mean that Goodreads can remove any reviews deemed to criticise 'author behaviour', ie those that focus on the author personally rather than the book itself. While I don't disagree that personal attacks, having nothing to do with the content of a book, may be problematic, I completely disagree with Goodreads deleting reviews without warning (they've now done a U-turn on this), and I think it's going to be very difficult to draw the line between judging an author and judging their work. What if a review does both? If I say I think an author is talentless and overrated in a review, is that acceptable or not? If the book seems to promote attitudes that offend me, for example making excuses for a violent or otherwise abusive character in the context of a relationship, am I allowed to criticise the author for writing it this way? It's difficult not to see this policy as an excuse for censorship. That said, I wouldn't want to move to another book review site, so my plan is to gradually make this blog the focus of my book-reviewing activity, rather than my Goodreads account.
So, on to the films. I often struggle with my concentration span when watching films - that's part of the reason why reading is the perfect activity for me: there's nothing else you can do at the same time. However, I've seen a few movies I've enjoyed recently so I thought I'd write about those, for a change (partly inspired by Safiya's excellent blog Oh, Such a Primadonna, which includes lots of film chat as well as other interesting culture and lifestyle stuff).
The first one I have to mention is The World's End. This was a film I wasn't all that bothered about seeing until I started watching it; then I got slowly sucked into the story, by the end I was really into it, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I didn't like everything about it - it lags a bit in places and the female characters may as well be nonexistent - but there were a lot of good bits: the 90s-tastic soundtrack, for one, and the hilarious depiction of small-town life, but most of all, the main character, Gary King. You know when you fall totally in love with a character during the course of a film to the point that you want to marry them AND write essays about their characterisation? Yeah, that. The question now is, do I buy a Gary King poster to sit alongside my framed Devil's Double poster? Do I seriously want to start assembling some sort of gallery of bad boys in aviator sunglasses at my age? I'm leaning towards 'yes'.
I finally got round to watching Dreams of a Life, the half-drama half-documentary about Joyce Vincent, whose body was found in her flat in 2006 after her death three years earlier. Partly made up of re-enactments of scenes from Joyce's life, punctuated by interviews with people who knew her, the film tries to uncover the reasons behind her tragic death, including the question of why her body lay undiscovered for so long. I've been intrigued by this story since I first read about it but Dreams of a Life, though extremely interesting, was a frustrating mixture: the interviews revealed far more about the interviewees than Joyce herself, particularly in the case of the main subjects, two ex-boyfriends who seemed fixated on her physical attractiveness and how 'sexy' she was. I get that this is perhaps understandable - it's more difficult for any of us to imagine a beautiful, head-turning woman dying alone - but it seemed an odd thing to talk about so enthusiastically, given how her life ended up. I also thought the film glossed over the most important period of her life - the latter years of which were apparently spent in an abusive relationship - and didn't deliver any answers, although I suppose that was inevitable. Ultimately the main conclusion I drew from the film was that Joyce's life had actually been very normal, which is perhaps the most devastating thing about what happened to her.
I went to see Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa a few weeks ago. I was a bit worried about this one; I loved the original series so much that I didn't want them to ruin it all with a cheesy/puerile film version. However, while there is no way it reached the dizzy comic heights of series one, I did like it a lot, and particularly enjoyed Alan's mouthing along to Cuddly Toy by Roachford (I am now completely addicted to that song as a consequence of this) and the repeated mentions of Dave Clifton's drug/booze hell - a nice bit of continuity with the TV version. And anyone who knows how much I loathe and despise Radio 1 will appreciate how amused I was by the fact that the breakfast show characters were just a huge fuck-you to moronic ~youth~ DJs in general. Give me Alan any ruddy bloody day! (I also watched Steve Coogan: Stand-Up Down Under directly after this and I have never felt more in love with him. Petition to get this released on DVD NOW.)
Most recently I watched Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Based on a true story about a gang of teenagers who broke into various celebrities' houses and stole millions of dollars' worth of stuff (largely without the celebrities noticing), it's been slated by a lot of reviewers for being empty and dull. The weird thing was, I think that's what I liked the most about it. The emptiness makes sense - the whole narrative is framed within the materialism and boredom of both the thieves and their victims - and it works surprisingly well as a critique in itself. It's all very depressing (I now feel strangely glad I'm not a rich American teenager in 2013) but it's kind of spot-on and it's hard not to come away feeling a) it was inevitable that these kids would turn to some kind of bad behaviour because of factors beyond their control and b) there wasn't really anything that bad about what they did.
After actually having a proper summer for once, I'm quite looking forward to autumn: one of the best things about it is the opportunity to fill your wardrobe with new outfits, darker colours, stuff you can layer up and, my favourite, BOOTS. (I'm dreaming of these from Zara.) But I've also enjoyed seeing the Spring 2014 collections so far: favourites to date have included Alexander Wang, Altuzarra, Theyskens' Theory, Topshop Unique, Christopher Kane, Marques' Almeida and No. 21. You can see all my looks of choice on my runway Pinterest board.